Carpio: VFA termination renders other military pacts with US 'useless'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 28 2020 03:36 PM | Updated as of Feb 28 2020 04:02 PM

MANILA - The Philippines' termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with its longtime ally the United States will render its other military pacts with the Americans useless and makes it vulnerable to possible armed aggression, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Friday.

Speaking at a forum in Makati City, Carpio said President Rodrigo Duterte's next move might be to rescind the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the country's two remaining pacts with the US.

"The President knew with the termination [of VFA], the EDCA would be useless, the MDT would be hollow, but the President of course still proceeded," Carpio said.

The MDT, signed in 1951, mandates the Philippines and the US to come to each other's aid if either country is under attack.

Meanwhile, EDCA, which allows the prepositioning of US defense equipment and materials in strategic locations in the Philippines, is a 2014 executive agreement envisioned to advance the implementation of the MDT.

On Duterte's orders, the Philippines recently scrapped the VFA, a treaty that governs the conduct of US forces while in the country. The termination came after the US visa of his long-time ally Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa was canceled. 

The treaties are part of US domestic law after President Donald Trump approved the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) in 2018.

"The US Congress reiterated, confirmed that the US government is committed under the MDT, under any all related and subsequent bilateral security arrangements, including EDCA. So in this law, the US said we are making the MDT, VFA, EDCA as part of US law. We are now bound by this," Carpio said.

Without these treaties, it's "practically inviting the enemy to seize whatever Philippine island, rock and reef it desires to seize," said Carpio, a staunch critic of Chinese incursions in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

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During his speech, the former justice also criticized Duterte's recent remark that the Philippine military is pursuing self-reliance or it either becomes a US territory or a Chinese province.

Malacañang had said the President's remark was a joke. 

"Under the UN charter, collective self-defense is allowed. We are allowed to defend our country against armed aggression but we can enter into alliances to defend our country," he said.

Regional superpowers Japan and South Korea, Carpio said, even rely to the US because of its nuclear weapons.

"Against China which is actually occupying and invading our territory in the West Philippine Sea, our maritime zones, the only ally we can hope to deter China is of course the US. But the President has decided to terminate the VFA knowing that it will make EDCA and the MDT useless," he added.

When Duterte visited China in 2016 and said the Philippines would become dependent on them for all time, it made Manila a vassal state of Beijing, he said. 

"Because this was broadcast all over China, they saw it as another instance where a head of state made himself a vassal of China. So that's why when the Chinese people come here, they spit on our policemen, they violate, they drive without getting driver's license. They think that Filipinos are citizens of a vassal state. That's the mindset of Chinese people," Carpio said.